Australia has unveiled a massive joint plan with other superpowers to aid a region in a move that critics say will reduce China’s influence.
A massive plan to build an underwater Internet cable system to boost Internet speeds in the Pacific has been unveiled, with Australia joining the US and Japan to help the region after the severe economic impacts brought on by the pandemic. can get help.
“The proposed undersea cable will provide faster, higher quality and more reliable and secure communications to approximately 100,000 people in the three countries,” a joint statement from the three governments said.
“This will support increased economic growth, boost growth opportunities and help improve living standards as the region recovers from the severe effects of COVID-19.”
Australian Foreign Minister Maris Payne declared that the development was “more than an infrastructure investment” after securing deals with US and Japan counterparts.
“It represents an enduring partnership to deliver practical and meaningful solutions at a time of unprecedented economic and strategic challenges in our region,” the ministers said.
“This project builds on the strong foundation of trilateral cooperation in the Indo-Pacific between Australia, Japan and the United States.”
The plan is also seen as a direct response to Chinese influence in the region. According to Jonathan Pryke, director of the Lowy Institute’s Pacific Islands Program, Australia stepped in and offered Pacific countries a “better deal” as concerns grew over a deal signed by the Solomon Islands government with Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei in 2016. Went.
Critics have doubted China’s intentions, speculating that the cable laid by China could compromise security in the region and could even potentially be used for espionage. Chinese officials have denied this claim.
“This was seen as a red line that Australia would not cross and so we jumped in with a better deal, providing the cable as a grant that would be implemented with a procurement partner of Australia’s choosing – Which will not be Chinese,” said Mr. Pryke said via ABC.
In response to the Huawei deal, Australia paid for most of the Coral Sea cable, which connects Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea and Honiara in the Solomon Islands to Sydney’s hubs.
According to ABC, the Huawei Marine contract would “lay a cable between Honiara and Sydney, which would mean Chinese hardware was connected to the backbone of Australia’s domestic Internet infrastructure”. That deal has reportedly cost Australia $137 million.
Dr Amanda Watson of the Australian National University has helped map cable projects in the Asia-Pacific region in an effort to increase bandwidth in remote island nations. However, it is not a 100 percent guarantee that the new move will reduce prices for the three target countries.
“It is not guaranteed that this will reduce Internet prices or improve speeds because there are other factors at play, such as competition in the market, other costs of operating in those markets, and so on,” Dr. Watson told ABC.
“We can’t say with certainty what will happen in those places in relation to the prices consumers pay, or even the speed they will experience.
“Although I would say that the geopolitical situation would likely have come to the mind of decision makers in Australia, the United States and Japan when they were coming up with the deal to have a tripartite partnership to fund it themselves.”
Early estimates estimated that the newly installed cable would take about 18 months to carry data between Pacific countries.
“It’s going to require some additional work for at least one telecommunications company to get involved,” Dr Watson said.